Mainstream self-care is nice and can be quite helpful, but sometimes we need more practical, lasting approaches for dealing with day-to-day stress.
Many of the relaxation tips that have been circulating online these past few years are also quite commercialized and therefore less focused on any true change or accelerated coping (e.g. buy a bath bomb, get a pedicure, take a vacation).
As opposed to massage, yoga, therapy, exercise and the like, these “buy your way” de-stressing tactics are notably temporary ways to take care of ourselves; again, not ultimately useless, but not likely to make any long-lasting difference.
TIPS FOR LIVING A MORE RELAXED LIFE WITH MINIMAL EFFORT:
#1. Be thankful as soon as you wake up.
Before checking your phone, letting your mind race, or even greeting others (if possible – include your kids if not!), take a deep breath and be happy to be alive.
I’m still not sure I truly understand this concept to the fullest potential, but I can attest that doing it anyway does affect you. You can appreciate the weather, recognize the incredible & invention-filled environment you’re in, or simply be thankful for your functioning body.
Whatever strikes you, aim for something that is yours alone – your perspective, your gratitude, your thoughts, your self.
#2. Set stress alarms on your phone or smartwatch.
Part of living a relaxed life is being aware of what brings you stress and handling it accordingly.
If you already know that your daily trek to pick up the kids, a weekly meeting with your boss, or deciding what to eat for lunch is going to increase your stress levels, set an alarm to chime just before and/or after these events and grant yourself a minute to breathe and find yourself.
The more you practice this intentional stillness and recognition of what winds you up, the more conditioned you’ll become to handle these situations with grace and personal control.
You can also set alarms to alert you when you need to take action (leave the house, start getting dressed, make a phone call), to avoid the anxiety that inevitably comes with fear of making a mistake.
#3. Use your imagination.
In books, movies, TV, and other media, we’ve all come across that cool, seemingly unbothered character we wish we could emulate. (Mine is Kinsey Millhone from Sue Grafton’s alphabet series.)
In times of rising tempers, important presentations, or provocation from whomever excels at grinding your gears, imagine what your ideal character would do and use it as inspiration to change your gut reaction.
Fictitious characters’ lives are never going to be as intense, immediate, and complicated as our own, so we’ll never truly be as perfectly collected as they can seem. Still, from time to time, we can follow their lead and gain the benefit of being who we wish we would be in an otherwise stressful situation.
#4. Say it out loud.
While speaking our every thought can be obnoxious and cluttering, allowing our internal thoughts to run wild is also detrimental.
When you catch yourself spiraling or when you’re feeling nervous or overwhelmed, speak positively OUT LOUD.
You might feel silly or embarrassed at first (I certainly did), but something about literally voicing your thought, soothing yourself with your own words, and confronting your mind’s chaos breaks that cycle of mental and emotional deterioration.
Just thinking “stop” or “you’re so stupid” won’t benefit you at all. In fact, it’ll likely make things worse.
Speak positive thoughts to stop a stress cycle in its tracks. Be as nice to yourself as you would be to those you love and care about.
#5. Take Action!
More often than not, we make mountains out of mole hills, and the resulting dread, fear, and anxiety only escalate until push comes to shove and the situation absolutely has to change.
Instead of waiting for a catalyst, take action now.
If you have a long list of tasks to be done, just pick one and do it. Chances are, completing this single task will feel so good that you’ll be motivated to do more—but even if not, you will 100% find relief in having gotten something done and off your plate.
The longer you put something off, the harder it seems.
Similarly to tip 5, sometimes you may be hindering your relaxation with worrisome thoughts (as opposed to tangible, completable tasks). Take your peace back by making a plan.
If you’re facing financial worries, grab a pen and paper and take stock of incoming and outgoing cash, due dates, and how you can best allocate your resources.
Even if you’ve got apps that do some bookkeeping for you, working it out yourself is empowering and will afford you the luxury of no longer obsessing about your situation and the “what-ifs.”
This tip also applies to situations such as going somewhere new (Google street view and read directions), meeting someone new (pick your outfit in advance, make a list of things you do or don’t want to say), or a rough day ahead (write out your schedule and set those alarms to help yourself out!).
#7. Be honest with yourself.
The truth is that we do have time to do whatever it is we’re “meaning to,” but we prioritize something else – be it because we don’t really want the goal as badly as we say, or because we’re simply avoiding the work.
Both are fine, but stop lying to yourself about it.
Studies show that we mentally overcalculate our own working hours, and ironically, this is probably because we spend so much time stressed out that we feel like we’re working 24-7.
This is a very clear sign that serious changes need to be made, and it’s not a joke. Ignoring your own wellness WILL negatively affect every relationship, person, and event that surrounds you.
Continually selling yourself and others the story of being too busy, too physically tired, or too mentally drained to meet a supposed goal creates the sensation of victimhood and powerlessness. This colors how you act, think, and speak every day, and you’ll believe yourself soon enough.
Avoid unnecessary excess woes by being honest with yourself.
No one is perfect, and few (if any) people ever master the true skill of living a life wholly in the present, devoid of past ruminations and future worries. The goal here is to do better and feel better through the act of consciously cultivating relaxation.
It’s crucial that anyone who sincerely wants to live a happier, less stressful life makes choices every day that will actually allow for that outcome. Contentment is so very worth feeling, and I’m absolutely positive that anyone can regularly live in that relaxed state with practice, effort, and a sprinkling of self-compassion.
About the author: Muscle Memory Massage
I'm so excited to be here in Cahaba Heights, supporting our community with relaxation, stress relief, and pain mitigation. I lived in Cahaba Heights when I initially moved to Birmingham 4 years ago, and I felt at home for the first time in a long time. Everything from the pretty neighborhoods and beautiful flowers to Doodles and the friendly faces I came to know stuck with me. After learning a LOT in school and being sincerely surprised by the immense benefits provided by massage therapy, I knew there was no where else I'd rather bring my newfound knowledge and skills to than where my Birmingham adventures began. I love it here, and I hope you'll love me being here, as well!
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